Few issues produce as many sparks as a child custody proceeding, whether you are deciding the initial custody provisions of a divorce settlement; seeking to change that determination after a divorce; or seeking an initial custody ruling regarding children of unmarried parents. Custody really comes down to two issues: primary residential custody (which household is considered the child’s main residence), and decision-making, which may be shared between the parents or not. Control of children is something that fathers and mothers both instinctively desire, but, when parents are not together anymore, both the residential custody of the child and the decision-making responsibilities of each parent have to be determined.
In seeking to initially assert or to change custody, the litigant does have certain legal thresholds to cross before an action can be successfully brought to court, and those thresholds are different in cases of a first custody determination as opposed to seeking a change of custody. If a disagreement exists between the parents as to the elements of custody, you and your attorney should realistically examine the strength of your legal position and arguments, the ingrained sexism of the courts (yes, the law is “gender neutral” but the courts still are not), the expense of seeking custody, and the disruption to parent/parent and parent/child relationships that can occur under the pressure of a legal proceeding.
At Breiter and Gura, we take the task of assessing your chances of success very seriously. While many family law attorneys will vigorously encourage clients to pursue custody cases (as they have little to lose and lots of fees to gain), at Breiter and Gura, we work with clients facing these decisions to carefully analyze their actual chances of succeeding, versus other methods of dealing with the children-related issues that often arise between parents. While our firm has had some real success in pursuing those cases where we felt that judicial intervention was necessary and success obtainable, we have also had success in directing some clients, who may have a weaker case for custody, to pursue other personal and/or legal paths that can often defuse the anger between parents, and create a better atmosphere in which children can emotionally grow. Our focus is always focused on the children’s quality of life, and the parents’ positive participation in those lives — something which we feel can often be obtained by techniques other than endless and expensive litigation, and counsel our clients accordingly, while we remain fully capable of taking these matters before the court if it becomes necessary.